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Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will lead a study to examine how dengue and Zika interplay during gestation and childhood, thanks to a grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

Sylvia Becker-Dreps MD, MPH

The principal investigator for the project is Natalie Bowman, MD, assistant professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the UNC School of Medicine and a member of UNC’s Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Ecology Lab. Co-principal investigators are Sylvia Becker-Dreps, MD, MPH, associate professor of epidemiology at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and of family medicine at the UNC School of Medicine, and Filemon Bucardo, PhD, a faculty member at the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua at León.

Studying a cohort of 512 women in León, Nicaragua, who were pregnant during the Zika virus epidemic, the team will determine whether the antibodies that mothers form against Zika also could protect their developing infants against dengue, as the two viruses are closely related. Additionally, the researchers will determine whether developing infants of mothers who were exposed to dengue in the past respond differently to a maternal Zika infection.

Dr. Becker-Dreps, who also serves as director of the UNC Program in Nicaragua and as associate director of the UNC Office of International Activities, hopes this research will help to better understand how to prevent the burden of dengue and Zika in young children.

“We are one of the few research groups that have assembled a cohort of pregnant women who were exposed to Zika during the American Zika epidemic,” said Becker-Dreps. “We are hoping to gather all the information we can from these women and infants before the next epidemic hits.”

The grant, titled “Implications of Congenital Zika Virus Infection,” will run from April 1, 2019, to March 30, 2021.

This story was posted originally by the UNC Gillings School of Global Pubic Health.